Looking to go to the theatre in London? Check out my review of “Boy in Darkness”

boy_in_the_darkness057 (2) LEADImage by Lidia Crisafulli; featuring Gareth Murphy.

If there’s one thing you must do while visiting London, it’s of course head to the theatre. More people attended London’s theatres last year than Premier League football matches.  But with hundreds of options to choose from – ranging from plays at the Old Vic, to the big West End musicals – how do you choose something that ticks all of the boxes, and is easy on the budget?

Might I suggest something a little different. The West End is wonderful, but it can be pricey, and you have the opportunity to see a lot of the big musicals in places besides London.  London is famed also for her many smaller theatres, where new works are created and daringly developed, and also where some of our most accomplished theatre-makers were born and nurtured.

The Blue Elephant Theatre is one such gem, tucked away in the South London district of Camberwell. If you’re looking to go “where the locals go”, the Blue Elephant is just the place.

Currently showing until April 4 is an adaptation of Mervyn Peake’s dark novella, Boy in Darkness. The Blue Elephant has enjoyed a special relationship with Mervyn Peake’s work, having already produced successful stage premieres of The Cave and Noah’s Ark. Boy in Darkness is the story of a privileged young teen escaping a castle; a story steeped in adventure, horror and the macabre. The novella has been re-worked as a solo performance by adaptor and performer Gareth Murphy, and directed by John Walton.

The story’s root as a novella shines through in Murphy’s performance, which is a wonderful mix of storytelling and physical theatre. It lends itself well to being a solo work, with the performer craftily switching between the narrator and the story’s four characters with a smoothness as though reading a storybook.

The energy and physicality of the piece enables the adult performer to convincingly convey the young boy’s terrifying journey. The studio theatre has been converted to utilise a thrust stage that creates an even greater intimacy, pulling the audience into the dark depths of the boy’s adventure into the underworld. Murphy utilises the space to its full potential – climbing about not only Martin Thomas’ brilliant timber set, but also scaling the walls of the theatre itself, radiators, and clambering behind the audience.

The boy’s disturbing encounter with the unsavoury characters of Goat and Hyena sends chills down the spine, but is nothing on the evil that is to come later in the form of their lord – the apparent boy-eating Lamb. The presence of these three characters easily justifies the fear that dominates the boy – in his eyes, his facial intensity, his words and of course, his movements.

Boy in Darkness is a fairytale for adults that makes the Grimm Brothers look like Disney. If you’re looking for either something different to experience – or simply physical theatre and storytelling at its finest – be sure to check it out. And at only £12.50 full price (or a tenner for students), it’s an absolute steal for theatre in this fine city.

Blog written by and play reviewed by Charlotte Everett.

Boy in Darkness is on at Blue Elephant Theatre until April 4, shows Wednesday to Saturday, with all performances at 8pm.

boy_in_the_darkness004 (2)Image by Lidia Crisafulli; featuring Gareth Murphy.

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REVIEW: London audience intoxicated by Wellington’s soulful Louis Baker

Louis1Photo by Karl Burrows.

It’s a rare talent to command the undivided attention of a packed London venue, but that is exactly what Wellingtonian Louis Baker achieved upon his return to London last week with a sold-out gig at St Pancras Old Church.

Louis provided an aural experience of sensory delights in a venue that reverberated with the sincerity and generosity of the performer himself. Opening with his well-known song Birds seemed a highly appropriate choice, as the set quickly took flight into the heavens themselves.

Two songs in, Louis remarked, “Playing in a place like this… I’m just warming into it… it’s such an experience; so good to be here – I’m just coming to terms with it”.

The intimate, candle-lit setting could not be better suited to a performer who is clearly motivated by the desire to share something of great value with his audience. The music serves as a vehicle for the values that Louis upholds himself and was proactive in speaking about: “I truly believe in us moving forward together as one people – that’s what this song Movin’ is about”… Just Want to Thank You is about intuition and trusting yourself… and his song Love, written when he was only 17, shares his belief in non-violence. Back On My Feet tells the story of how Louis’ journey with music has helped him get back on his feet – a journey that he is now sharing with his growing number of fans throughout the world.

Louis’ set overall provided a relaxed vibe that showcased the beauty and power of solo performance as well as allowing his soulful vocals to shine. Although alone on stage, Louis is not content with simply entertaining his audience, rather, he craves audience participation – vocals, foot-tapping, clapping – and the crowd is always happy to accept his invitation. Attending one of his gigs, you really get a sense in sharing in the music and creating something together.  He has a casual vibe and his interaction with his audience always allows everyone to feel at ease. His cover of Purple Rain was eagerly embraced, and he completely elevated the energy in the room finishing with his own Get Back. Clearly won over, the crowd roared for an encore, to which they were enthusiastically given a rendition of Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get It On.

Every time Louis Baker returns to London, his fan-base seems to have at least doubled in size. It’s hardly surprising, considering his immense talent and generosity as a performer – once you’ve been to one gig, you’ll be keen to go to them all. Definitely one to keep watching – be sure not to miss him next time he’s in town.

Review/article by Charlotte Everett. May only be re-used with permission. Originally written for NZNewsUK.

Remembrance, Rugby and Richie McCaw

A special article for Remembrance Day 2014.

It’s not every day as a journo that you attend a post-match press conference and a rugby player brings tears to your eyes. But that is essentially what happened to me on Saturday after the All Blacks played England at Twickenham.

As a Kiwi, I’ve grown up with remembrance. For as far back as I can remember, I’ve always attended services for ANZAC Day (25 April, the anniversary of the Gallipoli landings). It started with me marching in the ANZAC morning parades as a Pippin, Brownie and then a Girl Guide. As a city-dwelling university student, I attended the dawn services at Auckland War Memorial Museum. ANZAC Day was a day off – students would often have a big night on the 24th, but it didn’t matter what wretched state you were in early the next morning, you got up, you went to the dawn service, and you damn well paid your respects. In my group of friends at least, the one thing you would never dream of doing is treating ANZAC Day as a day for a lie-in to sleep off yet another holiday hangover.

Things were no different on moving to London. If anything, I’ve witnessed the ANZAC spirit taken even more seriously. It’s no small feat getting up for the ANZAC dawn service at Hyde Park Corner; it’s a bit more of a challenge than at home – it requires irregular night buses, a little more self-motivation (unlike at home where everyone in your flat would be going), and of course it’s not a day off – so you’ll be dragging yourself out for a strong coffee and brekkie afterwards, before making your bleary-eyed way into work. But you don’t complain. And no, you don’t think you deserve a medal. But there’s a sombre sense of completeness that you’ve done what little you can to briefly acknowledge someone else’s sacrifice.

But this isn’t about the ANZACs specifically. That just comes from me drawing on my own personal experience. This is about remembrance in a broader sense – why we Remember Them, and if we even understand what we’re remembering.

In this year, the centenary of the start of the First World War, a few friends and colleagues have been rather taken aback by my “fixation” on remembrance. I’ve been criticised from all angles – and some of the places the criticism has come from has been a surprise. Some believe it’s an interest that springs from coming from a military family of sorts. Others have said that I’ve become fixated on remembering the dead because my mother is dead. It really is quite astounding and shocking what people come out with.

And most surprising of all, is that most people don’t even bother asking me WHY – they’d rather just hold the opinion that I’m a little odd and morbid.

The truth is, contrary to the family I come from (who never really spoke about either war) and my participation in and attendance of commemorative services, I actually knew very little about either WW1 or WW2 until very recently. The interest has really sprung from a trip I took out to the WW1 battlefields of the Western Front with First Festival Travel a couple of years ago. It was an experience that changed my life and my opinion on remembrance forever; you can read about it here. But in a nutshell, I was somewhat ashamed to be forced to admit that actually I knew NOTHING. I had opinions on things I knew absolutely nothing about. In fact, even though I knew Gallipoli, I had no idea what the Western Front was, let alone its importance. I had no clue (if I am to be perfectly honest here) about why the First World War even started, or what it was we were fighting for. I was naive to the real numbers of those who fought, of those who fell, and of those many whose graves are unknown. I had no knowledge of the propaganda, of when and how conscription worked, and of who was making the decisions.

Is it important we know these things? Yes, it absolutely is. Because if we don’t know what or why we’re remembering – to be frank – remembrance becomes empty and devoid of any real meaning. If we’re just going through the motions, what is the point?

The truth is that many people have no idea about the “what’s” and “why’s” we’re remembering – and it is absolutely not their fault. I’m still scratching my head as to why I was taught about Gallipoli at school, but the Western Front was never even mentioned – even though more New Zealanders died at Passchendaele than at Gallipoli. This is just an example, but from what I’ve seen anywhere I go, there seems to be a general lack of awareness and understanding about the First World War. How can we expect people to truly understand remembrance – let alone learn lessons from that past to understand our future – if we don’t give them the knowledge to begin with?

Back to Saturday… pre kick-off, Twickenham Stadium. It’s the day before Remembrance Sunday and also the centenary year of the start of the First World War – a commemoration is taking place pre-match on the pitch, involving flags, music and the British Armed Forces – and it’s impressive. The Last Post sounds. Rather than being followed by a minute’s silence, however, 82,000 people burst into cheering and applause. I was absolutely horrified. But the fact that the majority of spectators thought it appropriate to applaud the Last Post is testament to a lack of understanding that they can absolutely not be blamed for.

At the post-match press conference, All Blacks Captain Richie McCaw was asked if given the proximity of this match to Remembrance Sunday, if it was extra emotional for the team to put the jersey on, thinking back to those others who have worn it – and no doubt alluding to the 13 All Blacks who died in the First World War specifically.

richie1

“It definitely has significance for our team,” Richie answered. “We always make sure we take a moment to understand why you put the poppy on the sleeve, and why people remember all those years ago. One of the things that always hits Kiwis – and especially our team – is when you say that during the First World War the population of our country was only a million, and 100,000 of that million then came to fight over here… and that puts a fair bit of reality around what you do. It adds a little bit of something extra to why you want to go and play well when you have the poppy on the sleeve. There’s no doubt that our boys understand that, and we make a point of remembering that. We’re all here living the way that we are because of what a lot of men did all those years ago. I think the great thing is that we have a chance to pay our respects, and go out and perform, and in that way too, pay our respects.”

Now to be clear, I’m not trying to suggest that Richie McCaw is extraordinary in his capacity to understand remembrance. But the reason his words touched me so much was because I was thinking, “Now here’s an ordinary guy, a rugby player, a typical Kiwi – who gets it”. The difference isn’t that Richie McCaw is a legendary All Black – the difference is that he makes “a point of remembering” and taking a moment to “understand why” you put the poppy on the sleeve, for example.

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Whether Richie McCaw’s point of reference comes from seeking understanding himself, or having it fostered within the team, I’m not sure. But it doesn’t really matter. The point is that if we want to understand the true meaning of remembrance, we have to seek the answers (and the questions) out for ourselves. And it’s something that I hope this Remembrance Day, you will make the effort to do. What remembrance absolutely is not, is glorifying an old war. What remembrance is, is understanding why we had to fight, why we remember those who had no choice but to fight, and crucially, what we must learn from it today.

Lest We Forget.

Written by Charlotte Everett. May be re-used with permission only.

All Blacks “Remember Them” in London – WW100

New Zealand’s All Blacks rugby team flew into London yesterday morning, and last night an intimate wreath-laying was conducted at Hyde Park Corner to remember the thirteen All Blacks who lost their lives in the First World War, as well as all soldiers who paid the ultimate price on the battlefields of Gallipoli and the Western Front.

Amidst jetlag and a hectic schedule having only just flown in from Chicago, current All Blacks Dane Coles, Charlie Faumuina, Luke Romano and Ben Smith attended and participated in the centenary commemorative ceremony, arranged by the New Zealand High Commission and New Zealand Defence. They were joined by New Zealand Rugby Chairman Brent Impey, as well as High Commissioner to New Zealand  HE the Rt Hon Sir Lockwood Smith, DA Brigadier Antony “Lofty” Hayward and a small number of New Zealanders and friends of New Zealand in England. I was also in attendance, as one of six representatives from the NZ Society UK committee.

WL4 LockwoodWL2

High Commissioner Sir Lockwood opened proceedings by welcoming everyone to the New Zealand Memorial at London’s Hyde Park Corner. He detailed the stories and brief biographies of several of the thirteen All Blacks who never made it home from the Great War, before listing the names of all thirteen. New Zealand Rugby Chairman Brent Impey then addressed the intimate gathering and personalised his remarks with the story of his own grandfather being wounded in the Battle of the Somme. Brigadier Hayward concluded spoken proceedings with a poem.

Following the wreath-laying and Last Post, London Maori Club Ngati Ranana led the gathering in Whakaaria Mai, and then performed the haka made famous by the All Blacks – Ka Mate.

WL5 bugler

Rugby was played at various points during the First World War, including an ANZAC match on the island of Lemnos during a respite from Gallipoli. The soldiers were forced to play with a football in place of a rugby ball, with New Zealand thrashing their counterparts 13 tries to 1. New Zealand also won 40-0 in another game played against France in April 1917 for the Somme Cup. 60,000 watched the match in Paris.

The world champions are in London to face England at Twickenham this coming Saturday, 8 November. They will take to the field wearing specially developed remembrance poppies. Impey stated, “World War One took a massive toil on our nation and our All Blacks were a part of that story. Over the next four years, New Zealand Rugby will play a role in sharing rugby’s contribution to the period and it’s an honour to be in London to mark Kiwis contribution to the Allied efforts”.

The thirteen All Blacks who lost their lives in the First World War were Albert Downing, Henry Dewar, Frank Wilson, Robert Black, George Sellars, James Baird, Reginald Taylor, James McNeece, Dave Gallaher, “Jum” Turtill, Eric Harper, Ernest Dodd and Alex Ridland.

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Article by Charlotte Everett; may only be used with permission.

Photo credit: Getty Images.

INTERVIEW: Artist Mandii Pope

Mandii Pope is one of New Zealand’s greatest creative exports: an acclaimed artist with exhibitions across Europe, Dubai and the UK, and with many works in both private and commercial collections across the globe. Her work is often seen all over the UK, be it her emotive spin paintings – or out in public spaces, you will find her book benches, a bus painted like Buckingham Palace, a Darth Vader Gorilla or a dolphin warplane to name but a few. Senior royalty have even added the finishing touches to one of her artworks. An iconic member of the Kiwi community in the UK, Mandii is often seen out and about at London-Kiwi events, and supports the community in a variety of ways. She has now returned to New Zealand for the first time in six years to be part of the Christchurch Stands Tall Giraffe sculpture trail – I grabbed the opportunity to find out more about the art, and about the lady herself…

Tell us where you’re from in NZ, when you came to the UK, and why?

I’m originally from Auckland. I followed love to the UK! Justin Bade came to London to gear up 42 Below. We’d been friends for years; I left my happy life in NZ after a romantic month in Rarotonga for the thrill of “what if”. 11 years later, 42 Below is a great success story, Justin and I remain friends and to this day is the best decision I have ever made in coming to London to chase my dreams.

How was it first settling in to life in the UK – both in a general sense, and in terms of your career?

I came to London on a red carpet. We lived in Knightsbridge, my job was £50K per annum, and we led a glamorous life. We broke up a year later, and the company I worked for went into receivership. I ended up pouring pints in a gay bar in Soho at night for about £5 per hour before tax, and a film set during the day for free. I had nowhere to live, so the pub owners after a week of knowing me offered me their flat in Leytonstone. I averaged an hour’s sleep after I’d finished my night shift and I travelled 90 minutes on the night bus. I’d get home around 4.30 or 5am, and I’d be gone again by 6ish to be on set by 7am. After 4 months I was exhausted. A friend came back from travelling and was my saviour – thanks to her, I ended up settled in both the same flat and job that I’m still in 10 years later. I have two lives: as an artist, and an office job – both complement each other nicely. My office job keeps me safe and the people I work with have been like family to me in the UK. They have supported my full-time art career from day one, and supported me with an art studio to make spin paintings for 4 years – plus a Darth Vader Gorilla and a large corporate commission. I miss NZ, but London is where I need to be art-wise. There are so many opportunities the UK. I’m working to a 10-year plan and opportunities are plentiful after years of hard graft and determination.

What is the inspiration behind your work?

I’m a sponge to my environment. If it’s a public art sculpture, I like to utilise the organic shape of the sculpture and keep to the theme of the brief or project. The cityscapes are places visited. My spin paintings are emotive, fun to create and are the format of my current artworks. I’m very guided by a greater force and my intuition guides me to most of my inspiration. Sometimes I just get an idea and it explodes from there. I have a couple of hundred ideas for my NZ-themed spin paintings; I just need time to paint them all. It was great fun creating a colouring book for Kiwi-run Ziggle-Itwhich has seen me now turning my sculptures into colouring adventures for the kids. Ziggling-it is colouring fun for adults, and I seriously recommend it!

What are some of the career highlights of things you’ve worked on while you’ve been in the UK?

All Wild in Art projects are completely epic… Also a 15ft Big Ben BT Artbox for Childline in 2012, designing the Bagpuss costume for the VLM for Hospices of Hope, painting with royalty a couple of times, working on 60 Minute Makeover, film sets, painting the UK New Zealander of the Year, solo exhibitions in Cork Street and Dubai… They keep coming!

You’ve done a lot of work for Wild in Art. Tell us what they’re about, and what you’ve worked on for them?

Wild in Art are absolutely massive in the UK, and are taking over the world! Their sculptures raise hundreds of thousands – if not millions – for various charities around the globe. They have four or five public art trails in the UK and one on another continent per year. In 2012 it was Lions in South Africa; 2013 Rhinos in Australia – and this year, it’s giraffes in Christchurch, New Zealand! A Wild in Art trail consists of a town, a charity, and anywhere between 20-70 sculptures decorated by local and famous artists which are sponsored by local businesses, and then put on display for the public to enjoy, take photos and create memories… The sculptures are then up for auction, where all proceeds go to charity. Miniature sculptures are created by schools of a similar number. These projects bring enjoyment to entire communities and raise huge amounts for charities who need it. I’ve just completed my 11th public art sculpture – 8 have been for Wild in Art, with more to come in the new year. 2013 was a talking, breathing Darth Vader Gorilla (@DarthGorilla); 2014 has seen three book benches for Books About Town, a WW100 warplane dolphin named @TrevorWarphin for Wild Dolphins in Aberdeen, a Buckingham Palace bus for TFL’s Year of the Bus, and two giraffes for Christchurch Stands Tall: @MoaGiraffe, as well as designing “The Longest Girink in Town” giraffe (painted by Sarah Greig).

mandii trev

Your latest London project is the TFL Year of the Bus sculpture trail. Tell us a little about that?

There are 60 bus sculptures – 40 in London, with 20 to follow in Croydon in late November. The buses are celebrating 125 years of the bus, for Transport for London (TFL) in conjunction with three charities: Transaid, Kids Company, and the London Transport Museum. Mine is Buckingham Palace Bus. You can download an app to find them (search for “Bus Art – Year of the Bus”). Later in the year they will be up for auction, and the money raised will be divided between the three charities.

You’re in NZ at the moment working on Christchurch Stand Tall. What does this mean to you personally, and how did it come about?

I’ve been a big supporter of this project as soon as I heard about it a year ago, regardless of if I became a part of it or not. I believe in the project, the product and the people of Christchurch, and I really hope New Zealand realises how incredibly huge this is to have Wild in Art come to Christchurch. I’m the only Kiwi in the UK to have painted so many sculptures for Wild in Art, so it was super special to receive a phone call from Wild in Art Director Charlie Langhorne, who decided out the goodness of his heart to give me his own Air New Zealand ticket to send me home and be a part of the Christchurch Stands Tall project. It’s been nearly six years since I’ve been home, and it has been so special to be amongst a bunch of super-talented Kiwi artists at Giraffe HQ. One fellow artist – Justine Ottey – even surprised me with aTip Top container full of freshly backed afghans! Made my day! I have two giraffes; one is the famous red-and-blue spotted The Longest Girink in Town which I designed (painted by Sarah Greig and sponsored by Buildtech), and the other is Moa Giraffe (which I designed and painted), sponsored by Dulux New Zealand. Dulux chose my Moa design because of their huge involvement work with the Department of Conservation (DOC) and environmental conservation. Dulux have been great supporters of the project, supplying all paints for 50 schools, as well as the artists in Giraffe HQ. Back in the UK I use nothing but Dulux paints – I don’t like the expensive artist’s paints anymore, so I am a natural advocate for my sponsor. A match made in heaven! The Giraffes have just had a coat of varnish from Urban Hygiene and are looking magnificent! Campbell Live reported that they could sell for NZD $10,000 each. These sculptures have sold for £55,000 and £60,000 GBP each in the UK on some trails, so they have potential to raise so much more.

Mandii giraffes

I understand that Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, put the finishing touches on one of your paintings. Tell us about that!

Ceilidh Dunphy from the NZ High Commission recommended me to the New Zealand Women’s Association (NZWA) as a live art artist, to paint a very special painting on Waitangi Day at New Zealand House in the presence of HRH the Duchess of Cornwall. I was chosen as I had painted Buckingham Palace live for King Edward Hospital with the Duke of Kent in previous years. President Jane Thomas and I decided a cityscape of Clarence House (residence of HRH) would be most fitting. I completed the painting with a portrait of a Maori warrior (Bruce Simpson from Ngati Ranana, the London Maori Club) in the foreground with a Queen’s Guard. The Duchess of Cornwall was a fabulous sport when I asked her to paint a few windows. The painting was then up for auction a last month, and all proceeds went to a WW100 charity for NZ soldiers.

mandii camilla

What’s next for you?

As soon as I land back in the UK, I have 10 days to paint current 2014 UK New Zealander of the Year, Eric Tracey. I also have an Egg for The Big Egg Hunt, two magnificent Wild in Art Dragon sculptures for Go Go Dragons, plus many more submissions for Wild in Art projects of Buses, Owls and Barons. I still have a 100 or more NZ-themed spin paintings to complete as well. I’m due for another big exhibition, so I’ll make sure that happens next year. The world is my oyster, anything is possible – and I’m up for all of it.

You can find out more about Mandii here.

All photos courtesy of Mandii Pope. Interview by Charlotte Everett; may only be re-used with permission.

INTERVIEW: Anika Moa

I grabbed the opportunity to chat with Anika Moa for NZNewsUK ahead of her recent London show on October 30.

Anika, you are one of NZ’s most iconic singer-songwriters. How did you get into music, and had it always been your dream?

Anika: Hi! Both of my parents are singers who travelled all over New Zealand, so I was born into it. I truly fell in love with music at high school because it was so much cooler than maths or science. I started writing at 13, and grew from there. Such a nerd! My dream is to write for other people such as Beyoncé. Haha! I wish.

You were picked up by Atlantic Records in the United States as a teenager. You were determined to stick to your own unique style of Kiwi-folk acoustic songs… did the record company have other ideas, and how difficult was it to remain authentic?

Anika: My record company were amazing. Not only did they want to nurture my needs, but they waited for me to grow a bit musically. I toured my first album all over America and it was so full on, I got homesick and had to come home… That is where I discovered that I had to do it in my own country before I went anywhere else.

You’re now mother to twin boys. How has it been, juggling family life with your music career?

Anika: Having twins is soooo hard but sooo amazing. My sons have inspired me to work harder and my heart is full of love for them. I write less but when I do, I really make the most of it!! I’ve released a baby album called Songs for Bubbas that I released last December and it’s been a huge hit – even more so than my actual adult albums. LOL.

You’ve been recording your fifth studio album. What can you tell us about it?

Anika: It’s simple, elegant and heartbreaking. The usual, but with strong beats and my producer Jol Mulholland makes it. We wrote the songs together and it was a slow, easy process. I will release it and then tour it everywhere I can! I hope you love it.

You’re playing Bush Hall in London on October 30th.  How do you find the vibe here in London?

Anika: I’ve lived in London so I’m happy to be going back to see all the old haunts. I love the live music scene and catching up with old friends. It’s super exciting being there – I also see my family in Gloucestershire, which will be fun, fun, fun!

What are you most looking forward to with the London show, and what can the crowd expect?

Anika: I can’t wait for people to hear my new stuff. I want them to swim in it and my voice, and to have a drink and listen to my intensely strange but awfully good stories – and to be taken back to life in New Zealand.

Will you have any “down time” in London – and how do you plan to spend it?

Anika: Downtime with friends and family and beer. LOL.

After London – what next?

Anika: Spain! Part holiday part music conference, then back home to nearly summer in New Zealand. Yay!

Interview by Charlotte Everett. May only be re-used with permission

Further ANZAC commemorations in London

Following the dawn service, ANZAC continued to be marked in London with a number of other services and commemorations throughout the day.

Despite ANZAC Day not being a public holiday in Britain, large numbers continued to turn out for the wreath-laying at the Cenotaph on Whitehall, and the Service of Commemoration and Thanksgiving at Westminster Abbey. Both were ticketed events – free of charge, but needed to be obtained in advance.

ImageBrigadier Antony “Lofty” Hayward lays a wreath at the Cenotaph on London’s Whitehall. Photo copyright Charlotte Everett.

Proceedings at the Cenotaph opened with a parade march, led by the Band of the Blues and Royals. Military personnel, veterans and family members from both the New Zealand and Australian forces were included, as well as British forces – and the Chelsea Pensioners.

Reverend Canon Dr John Cullen began the service with a two-minute reflection. In his address, he remarked on not only what this commemoration means for the two ANZAC nations, but also paid respect to the toll of other nations involved – “whether friends or foes” – and commended how countries from both sides of World War 1 now stand united under the UN, working to resolve things peacefully, with courage and perseverance.

The wreath-laying commenced with the first wreaths laid jointly by the New Zealand and Australian High Commissioners, Rt Hon Sir Lockwood Smith and Hon Mike Rann. Wreaths were then laid by the Heads of the New Zealand and Australian Defence Staffs, Returned Services and other Armed Services and Governmental divisions or organisations. Representatives from Britain, Turkey, Malta, Ireland, Canada, Tonga, Belgium, France, India and Sri Lanka also laid wreaths.

ImagePhoto courtesy of the Dean of Westminster.

Shortly following the service at the Cenotaph, the service at Westminster Abbey commenced. Numerous VIPs were in attendance, including the Lord Mayor of Westminster and His Royal Highness The Duke of Gloucester. The Very Reverend Dr John Hall, Dean of Westminster, opened with a sombre Bidding. The hour-long service included a number of prayers, hymns and readings – including readings from both the New Zealand and Australian High Commissioners. Ahmet Unal Cevikoz, Ambassador of Turkey, gave the following reading:

“Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives… you are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours… You, the mothers, who sent their sons from far away countries, wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well. (Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, 1881-1938)

Wreaths were laid by the New Zealand and Australian High Commissioners at the Grave of the Unknown Warrior. Ngati Ranana, the London Maori Club, led the congregation in the hymn, “How Great Thou Art”.

ImagePhoto courtesy of the Dean of Westminster.

Concluding the service at Westminster Abbey, more informal commemorations commenced. The New Zealand Society of the UK held their annual commemorative drinks reception in the penthouse of the New Zealand High Commission, giving an opportunity to those who had had to work during the day the chance to commemorate ANZAC Day in the evening. Despite the event being hosted on a Friday night this year, it was a sell-out, with well over 100 people in attendance. NZ Society President Tania Bearsley gave a sombre and moving address, followed by an address from the NZ Studies Network who are conducting a conference about all aspects of New Zealand and the First World War later in the year. They gave three emotionally-charged readings of First World War poetry, before the Last Post from Bugler Ellie Lovegrove. The evening then took a lighter turn, with music from Michelle Nadia, Kiwi-themed canapés served by Escense Catering, and a number of New Zealand beers, wines and ciders on offer.

ImagePhoto credit: Stewart Marsden of SunPrints.

ImageMe (pictured in the middle) at the NZ Society event. Photo courtesy of Stewart Marsden, SunPrints.

Throughout the day, from both commemorations in the morning, and at the going down of the sun, New Zealanders and Australians in London came out in large numbers to remember our ANZACs. Overall it was a day of unity, remembrance, and above all – the resonating vibe of camaraderie and the ANZAC spirit.

Lest We Forget.

Article written by Charlotte Everett – may be re-used only with permission (please contact charlotte.everett@gmail.com), and you must please credit the author.

Article originally published on NZNewsUK.